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Cancun Climate Conference: Modest Moves in Mexico

December 11, 2010

International climate negotiators have struck a deal in Cancun.

You may recall that last year’s meeting in Copenhagen was a complete wash. The summit closed with confusion and drama. For this reason, I joined to tell our world leaders that the 2010 Cancun Climate Conference should not be a vacation. We needed to get serious about climate talks.

The Cancun conference ended with standing ovations for the host country and widespread concurrence among countries to approve the text of an agreement.

The parties adopted two agreements — one which delays a decision on the future of the Kyoto Protocol and another one which  lays out in greater detail a new deal on climate change that includes major emitters like the United States and China. 193 of the 194 countries represented in Cancun backed the text which represents “a new era in international cooperation on climate change,” said Patricia Espinosa, the minister of foreign affairs for Mexico and president of the summit.

To sum it up, the agreement records the commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions that developed and developing countries made in Copenhagen, establishes a framework for transparency, sets up a global climate fund which will provide $100 billion in financing to developing countries by 2020, and creates an initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Despite its moderate progress, the agreement has disappointed many. Here’s the 32-page agreement.

Observers feel that the progress was all too modest as the emission pledges are not legally binding and fall short of the stated goal of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. “The biggest hole in the Cancun agreement is its failure to permanently resolve the Kyoto conflict. To be fair, that would have been an impossible task this year,” said Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Overall, we can concur that some progress was made but a great deal of work remains. Here in the U.S., we clearly have more than a few political challenges.

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